Best gay bars in Chicago

Boystown is the center of the gay scene in Chicago. But great gay bars can be found everywhere from downtown to Uptown.

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  • Best gay bars in Chicago: Berlin

  • Photograph: Christopher Kitahara

    Best gay bars in Chicago: Big Chicks

  • Photograph: Erica Gannett

    Best gay bars in Chicago: The Closet

  • Best gay bars in Chicago: Crew Bar and Grill

  • Photograph: Taylor Castle

    Best gay bars in Chicago: Downtown Bar

  • Best gay bars in Chicago: Elixir

  • Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

    Best gay bars in Chicago: The Glenwood

  • Best gay bars in Chicago: Mary's Attic

  • Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

    Best gay bars in Chicago: Parlour on Clark

  • Best gay bars in Chicago: Scarlet Bar

  • Best gay bars in Chicago: Sidetrack

  • Best gay bars in Chicago: Wangs

Best gay bars in Chicago: Berlin

From dance clubs to chill hangouts to sporty pubs, there's a gay bar in Chicago for every type. The best part: They're not all in Boystown! 


RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best bars in Chicago


Berlin

  • Price band: 2/4

This freak-friendly dance destination in Lakeview built its reputation back in the mid-’80s with a mix of German new-wave music, art installations and even transvestite shows. These days, it’s still quirky but more retro, with Prince-tribute, disco and ’80s nostalgia nights. Goths and gays are extra welcome, but the scene here is made up of almost everyone. Thursday night's Stardust is a major locus of nightlife creativity.

  1. 954 W Belmont Ave, (between the El tracks and Sheffield Ave)
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Big Chicks

  • Price band: 1/4

Not a Boystown fan? Skip the stand-and-model parade and head to this laid-back Uptown saloon, where community matriarch Michelle Fire serves up tasty victuals to sunburned boys and girls at her famous Sunday buffets and keeps the rest of the week happening with tons of food and drink specials (like buck burgers on Mondays) and all-out dance parties on weekends.

  1. 5024 N Sheridan Rd, (between Argyle St and Carmen Ave)
More info

The Closet

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

This teeny taproom is a good stone’s throw from the hustle and muscle of Halsted Street’s rowdy boy bars, and that’s just the way this clientele likes it. Plenty of ladies hang here until the midnight hour, but the boys crash the party shortly thereafter, creating one of the few truly mixed queer scenes in the city.

  1. 3325 N Broadway, (between Aldine Ave and Buckingham Pl)
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Crew Bar and Grill

  • Price band: 1/4

Whether you’re hungry for baseball, football, rugby or just beer, this straight-friendly gay sports bar will work. Forty beers on tap (75 total), tasty (and even healthy) pub grub, lots of TVs and a rah-rah decor make this a fun place to cheer for your team, whatever team you’re on.

  1. 4804 N Broadway, (between Lawrence Ave and Gunnison St)
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Downtown

  • Price band: 2/4

It’s not Gentry (R.I.P., catty piano player cracking jokes about our ugly shoes), but are we complaining? No. Because not only does this place attract one of the more diverse gay crowds in the city, but it’s also the closest gay enclave to the Loop.

  1. 440 N State St, (between Hubbard and Illinois Sts)
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Elixir

  • Price band: 3/4

At this shoebox of a cocktail bar, the drinks are skillfully prepared, the crowd is kept to a minimum by the doorman, and the music never gets so loud that it drowns out your insights on Jean Genet. The clientele is mixed in age but not in gender, and everyone is on their best behavior, which makes it an altogether more sophisticated and adult experience than Elixir’s next-door sister, Hydrate.

  1. 3452 N Halsted St, (between Newport and Cornelia Ave)
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The Glenwood

  • Price band: 2/4

At first glance, this place looks like your typical yuppie sports bar, but the vastly male clientele, plum and ochre walls adorned with abstract art, and Kylie Minogue soundtrack reveal it to be Rogers Park’s straightest-acting gay bar. It’s also dog-friendly and offers a nice selection of retro cocktails like sidecars and lime rickeys.

  1. 6962 N Glenwood Ave, (between Morse and Lunt Aves)
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Mary's Attic

  • Price band: 1/4

Don't expect this upstairs bar to vaunt a granny's attic vibe. Given that it sits above the gay-friendly Hamburger Mary's, it's more like a tranny's attic what with the rampant kitsch, rowdy karaoke nights and fringe theater dominating the Attic's tiny stage.

  1. 5400 N Clark St, (at Balmoral Ave)
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Parlour on Clark

  • Price band: 1/4

How does a Far North Side taproom open during a recession-stressed economy and become an instant successs? Credit a neighborhood hungry for a low-key and friendly LGBT bar with an all-inclusive vibe, solid DJs and indie queer performances to keep things interesting.

  1. 6341 N Clark St, (at Devon Ave)
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Progress Bar

Opened in June 2013 in the former Cocktail space at the heart of the ’hood, this new entry on the Boystown scene boasts a cloud-like overhead sculpture installation made up of 19,000 twinkling light bulbs. It also boasts a better selection of craft beers on tap than most bars on the Halsted strip, pouring elixirs like Magic Hat #9 and local brew Hopothesis IPA. The vibe seems laid back—no sign yet of Cocktail's ubiquitous go-go dancers (though we'll keep our eyes out).

  1. 3359 N Halsted St, (Roscoe St)
More info

Replay

  • Price band: 1/4

Hydrate, Halsted's and Elixir owner Marc Liberson expands his Boystown mini-empire, turning the former Buck's Saloon into a barcade with classic video games from Dig Dug to Donkey Kong. As for drinks, Replay focuses on local and craft beers (25 on tap) and bourbon—a welcome addition to a strip where sugary-sweet mixed drinks and mass-market brews are the norm. The spruced-up patio remains a warm-weather attraction.

  1. 3439 N Halsted St, (between Roscoe St and Cornelia Ave)
More info

Scarlet Bar

  • Price band: 1/4

This ballyhooed Boystown hangout boasts elegant touches, including a 13-foot re-upholstered couch, a comfy antique chaise and a glittery vintage disco ball. There's just enough elbow room, perfect for the loyal and adorable bar staff and bustling theme nights like Frat House Thursdays and the Wednesday "Study Break."

  1. 3320 N Halsted St, (between Aldine Ave and Buckingham Pl)
More info

Sidetrack

  • Price band: 2/4

If size matters, there’s no better bar in Boystown than this well-hung hot spot. Six big rooms—we like the bustling Glass Bar—are all packed with cute, frisky boys distracting themselves with the same three things: the videos on the wall, the drink in their hand and the ass in your jeans.

  1. 3349 N Halsted St, (between Buckingham Pl and Roscoe St)
More info

SoFo Tap

  • Price band: 1/4

What’s not to like about this cozy corner tavern? The enclosed beer garden is adorable, pooches are welcome and there are regular entertainments, like game show nights and pub quizzes. As for the clientele, it’s mostly thirty- and fortysomething gay dudes. But at SoFo, everyone is welcome.

  1. 4923 N Clark St, (at Ainslie St)
More info

Wang's

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

After Henry Chang got a liquor license for his formerly BYOB eatery Wakamono, he promptly built Boystown’s best bar. The intimate space is, like all of Chang’s projects, highly stylized, employing lush, floral wallpaper and woodwork the likes of which you’ve seen only in an opium den. It might be a restaurant bar, but it has a style, vibe and—thanks to refreshing pear martinis—a taste all its own.

  1. 3317 N Broadway, (between Aldine Ave and Buckingham Pl)
More info


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